My name is Kyle Glass and last weekend I had the pleasure of playing in The Calling: Austin, one of a select few premier tournaments for the trading card game Flesh and Blood. I finished in the Top 4 and wanted to share my experience with this unique game.
Before I begin I’d like to congratulate Sasha on his win, and I want to thank my opponents one more time for the great games and the staff for running the event so smoothly.
When thinking about how best to structure this report, I decided that starting before the event would be best considering how fresh FAB is as a game. I met a lot of people at TCAustin that had never played card games competitively before, so it’s reasonable to think there are others like them that didn’t get a chance to make it out to any of The Calling tournaments that have run. I thought they might appreciate reading about my preparation as someone who is both new to Flesh and Blood but has experience playing other games at the competitive level.
Text in [brackets] are mechanical explanations of the rules of FAB. If you’re already familiar with the game to a certain degree, feel free to skip over them, but if you’re yet to have all the rules down, you might find the bracketed text to be helpful in your understanding. If you need to brush up on what a specific card I mention by name does, check out the card gallery. I recommend using ctrl+F to jump around the page.
I come from a background of playing Trading Card Games competitively, mostly Magic. I’ve played in hundreds of tournaments (if you count online and digital events) and have numerous Top 8's across many different formats. So, when tackling any new card game, I always draw on my extensive TCG gaming experience.
I found out about FAB from the Reaper Games booth at a regional tournament in October. I’ve always been into playing new card games, but these days when I find myself prepping for a new game, it’s a digital tcg. Not only are they easier to prepare for, the community is typically more centralized online since people have no other option. Also, there’s just a lot more digital card games being made than paper games.
Preparing for The Calling
The Calling being a limited tournament [where decks are built with packs at the event ] meant that I would need less preparation than for a constructed event, where deck lists, side-boards, and archetype match-ups would need to be examined. For sealed/draft, all I really needed was a rough tier list ranking and repetitions.
Of course, FAB being such a new game I would also have to learn general hero match-up rates and basic strategy, but that would hopefully come naturally in the other preparations. [Flesh and Blood cards are categorized by what Hero can use them. Heroes have their own special abilities, weapons they always have access to, and of course unique play-styles. The 4 classes of hero are Brute, Guardian, Ninja, and Warrior. Cards that can be used by any class are called Generic cards].
After playing many, many games with the four starter decks to learn the feel of the game as well as playing slow error-filled sealed games vs. a friend with the initial packs I bought from the Reaper Games booth, I got to work on the serious stuff. I found the nearest store that sold FAB (a mere 90 minute drive to Huntsville from Katy, Texas), bought a booster box, and inventoried the contents of the packs in a spreadsheet. Yes, I opened each individual pack and recorded what exactly came in the pack as I opened them. This process sounds arduous if you’ve never done it, but it returns dividends. By processing roughly 3 booster boxes worth of packs over the 2 months before TC Austin, I was able to build as many sealed pools as I wanted on demand.
The same friend that learned the game with via the starter decks would occasionally also build sealed pools, but most of my preparation was done in the form of generating 6 random numbers (each number corresponding to a line in my spreadsheet, and each line corresponding to a booster pack), and building decks from that pool. Of course, since these were all lists of actual packs I opened, I could physically build these pools from my binder and mock-play against myself.
Making the tier list was pretty straightforward. The class-generic system of cards used in FAB makes for an easy evaluation process. Your starting point is a deck of 30 generic cards and from there you replace your worst generic cards with your best class cards until you run out of class cards. You can realistically hope for your sealed deck to be a nice 50/50 split of 15 generic and 15 class cards, but it is possible to open less than 15 cards of any one class in 6 packs. I would share my tier list with you all, but it contains some thoughts that I would like to keep proprietary, what with my qualification for Worlds and all.
Of course there were 3 Calling tournaments before Austin. Auckland and Sydney, being the first of their kind, were really interesting to me and I looked at just about every coverage post on the official website 3 times to really soak it all in, including taking some notes and adjusting some close breakers on my tier list based on high-placing decks. I would be lying if I said I looked at New Jersey with the same scrutiny. In fact, TCJersey came and went and I didn’t even bat an eye; I was really engrossed with school.
The Calling Austin - Sealed
Alright, it’s the big day. I drove into Austin the night before to make sure I had a clear head and was as fresh as possible and brush up on common instant-speed cards I would need to be cognizant of to play around.
No, that didn’t mean I had memorized every Reaction and Instant from every class, but anything that my opponents could have cheekily hidden in Arsenal from B tier and up I did end up reviewing [Cards with the type “Attack Reaction” , “Defense Reaction”, and “Instant” can be played mid-combat, which makes memorizing them very useful so you’re never caught off guard. The Arsenal is a sort of extra card slot for your hand, with some limitations. Typically, you want to put a card in the Arsenal that you will always want access to because of that card’s powerful effect].
My sealed pool was honestly a little better than you could reasonably expect. Based on my, 18-12-12-13 distribution of class cards, it was pretty clear that I was going to be playing Guardian. Not every sealed pool is this straightforward (believe me, I’ve built a lot of them), so seeing such a lopsided distribution was a sigh of relief. Decision points are where you begin to make errors and this pool made my biggest decision for me.
Among those 18 class cards was the Bravo Specialization Showtime! that lets you search for a Guardian class card from your deck. Also a nice spread of blue cards to generate the resource points required to, well, play my cards. [Most cards have 3 different variations. Red cards have the strongest magnitude of effect, but you can only Pitch them for 1 resource point. Blue cards have the weakest version of an effect but can be pitch for 3 Resource points. Yellow cards are in between. Cards in the Arsenal cannot be pitched for Resource Points. Guardian has a lot of powerful effects at 4 and 5 Resource Point cost, so having an abundance of Blue cards to pitch for 3 is important]
I honestly find the Control Guardian (or Fatigue Guardian or Mill Guardian or whatever other card game comparison you want to make) archetype to be really cool. So, seeing something like 8 or 9 defense reaction cards in my pool made me happy [Defense Reaction cards are single cards that soak up a lot of damage. While most cards have a low defense value that you can use them for, like 2 or 3, Defense Reaction cards can have as much as 8 defense points].
I ended up playing all of them, including a triple crown set of Staunch Response, 5 Unmovable, and a number of Sink Below. My longest streak of Defense Reactions played was 5 in a row vs a very sad Brute player who, despite Intimidating me as best they could, never managed to get me below 10 life.
I wish there was more to say about my pool, but honestly it wasn’t all that interesting. Sadly, the really good ones rarely are. The class to play was scripted and I opened a full set of armor with little overlap in zone, including a Harnessed Cross Strap and Goliath Gauntlets. I think my only decision point in armor was Merchant’s Hood vs Ironrot Helm, though I didn’t consider it to be very close [Part of building your deck is choosing up to 4 equipment cards, one of each from different categories. These equipment cards have seemingly small effects, but they start the game in play and you always have access to them, making them virtually free value].
If you’re reading along and are worried that you could never make it in competitive card games, and all this work is simply too much for you to do: don’t worry. At round 1, I literally didn’t know all the rules of the game. That’s right, all this time I had been playing horribly wrong. It was my impression that Defense Reaction cards only had to have their resource cost paid when played from Arsenal [as opposed to playing them from your normal hand]. Thankfully, my opponent and Mr. James White himself were there to tell me I was mistaken and that I, in fact, could not block my warrior opponent’s massive weapon attack for free.
I lost round one.
I honestly didn’t intend on doing this write-up during the event, so I didn’t take my usual fare of notes during play. There were 7 Swiss rounds of games. [“Swiss” pairings style means no eliminations - everyone plays all the rounds and at the end of it all we look at final standings to see who advances]. There’s simply no way that my decision-making brain could have memorized enough about the overall games to even tell you the spread of heroes I played against. I can however tell you this much: they were all reasonably close (with only a couple of exceptions) and my opponents were all excellent.
However, this is where my previous work really shined as I remember many times seeing cards I have ranked in D or F tier being confidently cast by my opponents. I understand that you can’t pick what you open, but the sheer number of these weak cards being played told me I had a reasonable edge over the field. All-in-all, sealed was a great experience and FAB’s limited format is insanely fun.
There was a representation imbalance in the top 8 sealed decks with 7 Guardian and 1 Warrior deck making the top 8. All I’ll say about that is, you can’t reasonably count me when evaluating hero balance considering my above-average pool.
Top 8 - Draft
So now it’s top 8 time and I really only have a couple thoughts about it going in. You can read in my top 8 interview that I think the theoretically best limited deck is a Ninja deck, but it’s hard to build; you’d likely do better building a decent airplane than shooting for the moon with a rocket.
My other consideration was in decisions per turn. Warrior and Ninja being the action-economy classes would be aiming to play a lot of cards per turn. Playing cards means making decisions and making decisions, as I’ve mentioned before, means opening yourself up to making mistakes. So, deciding to stay away from those, I was left with 2 classes I would ideally play: Brute and Guardian, due to these classes focusing on making 1 large, frustrating attack per turn. Any early Majestic or Super Rare from these classes would pretty much lock me in to one for the draft but other than that, I made sure to pick generic cards as long as I could until I found a Brute or Guardian class card I had ranked B tier or above relatively late.
Pack 1, pick 1, was a Harnessed Cross Strap. I consider this simply one of the best cards you can pick across any class, and being generic makes it a snap pick since it doesn’t commit me to any class yet. This card particularly synergies with the two aforementioned large-attack classes since the resource point reduction will make 4 or 5 cost attacks only require me to pitch 1 card for resources.
Pack 1, pick 2 was another generic pick in the form of Unmovable. I’m starting to have flashbacks to my great sealed deck at this point.
Pack 1, pick 3 was the first class card: a blue Guardian crush attack. Again, I’m sorry I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I hope you can forgive me. It was late in the day and all the common Crushes kind of bleed together. I remember this much about it because two things caught my eye:
1) The general abundance of Guardian cards in this pack, telling me that neither of the players to my right had picked one (or they had and there were an insane amount of Guardian cards in the pack).
2) It was blue, which is important if you’re playing Guardian.
You NEED a certain threshold of blue-pitch cards to play this class and picking them up sooner rather than later means you can take the strong, high-powered attacks with confidence late into pack 2 and in pack 3.
My fourth pick was yet another blue Guardian attack, which decided my draft archetype. I was deathly afraid of having to play more than 15 generic cards in my draft deck so I was really averse to switching classes at this point.
During the review period between packs one and two I had a nice spread of blue and yellow cards. In fact I had a total of 9, which meant that after taking into account the armor piece I had drafted, more than 3/4 of my playable attacks and actions made 3 resource points. This is a nice goal, albeit perhaps a bit conservative. It’s possible I passed a stronger card for a blue pitch I didn’t need, but if you’ve never done a competitive-level timed draft, it can be really nerve-racking moment-to-moment and you sometimes miss these little considerations. Luckily for me I found plenty of red-level cards in the next two packs to give me the needed raw strength to hit for a lot.
Seriously, I found plenty of red cards. As in, I only ended up picking 3 or 4 more blues after the first pack due to my own overcompensating from pack one. This really wasn’t ideal since it left me with little to no room for selection in regards to my blue-pitch cards. I ended up having to play some blues I really didn’t want to in order to hit the amount of resource points I needed to reliably cast my defense reactions (which you definitely have to pay the cost for whenever you use them, I know that much now ) as well as to be able to actually play the 5-cost attacks Guardian requires.
Top 8 playoffs
The quarterfinals were, predictably, very fun. Good games to Nicholas Marino who showed up with a Ninja deck that honestly scared the bejeezus out of me. The first turn of the game, he hit me with a full 3-card chain of Head Jab, into Open the Center, into Fluster Fist from his opening hand. I don’t care who you are, you simply don’t account for you opponent to have all three in their opening hand.
Luckily I was on the draw and was able to reasonably throw away cards to defend and still redraw up to 4 thanks to the first-turn drawing procedure (which I also didn’t have down pat at the beginning of the tournament and had to ask TCJersey Champion Collin Kaiser for clarification on!). Barring that slight hiccup though, the rest of the game was fairly straightforward.
I had played against 2 or 3 ninjas in the sealed portion of the event and was undefeated vs. them, indicating that Guardian-Ninja might be pretty favored towards Guardian (at least in limited).
Top 4 - Semifinals
Ah, the Semifinals. This is the game where my journey ended and I honestly can’t say I could have asked for a better loss. Despite how I might sound, I sincerely think Brendan Patrick and I had a good game and it was a fitting end to my run with a pretty good narrative.
It goes like this: after my quarterfinals win, it kind of hits me that my prep has paid off and suddenly the prospect of winning the trophy (which I suddenly cared a hell of a lot more about than the money) sunk in.
Brendan and I walked back towards where he had played last round and I saw a sleeved Harmonized Kodachi on top of this pile of cards. “Ok,” I thought, “that doesn’t mean much, it could just be another token he had lying around.” But sure enough, he was playing Ninja and I think I got a little too comfortable based on my undefeated run vs the class thus far.
At one point in the match, I overextended into a Cartilage Crush with Dominate [the Guardian’s ability restricts your opponent to only being able to block with 1 card from their hand, at the cost of 2 additional resource points] and was met with a (Red) Unmovable. Ouch.
Had I been playing sharper, I probably wouldn’t have pitched the extra card to gain Dominate and would have had that card to defend with, but the idea of putting my Ninja opponent below 5 life was too tempting [the Guardian's weapon deals 4-6 damage, and each Hero has access to their weapon at all times. Meaning people who get to 4 or less life vs a Guardian are put in a tough spot for the rest of the game].
Played sloppy, got punished.
But, what really decided my loss happened a couple hours earlier. Brandon was down to 4 life, which meant he was compelled to block every one of my weapon attacks from now on. Thanks to some fancy footwork with Sigil of Solace, I had managed to gain enough life in a single turn to get him to pitch a card or two more than he might have thought he needed to win. But, it wasn’t quite enough and I was still brought down to 1 life vs. a combat chain with both Harmonized Kodachi's on it and a combo-less Rising Knee Thrust. I have one more card in hand after I defend against the Rising Knee Thrust with an attack action that leads me to taking exactly no damage, while at 1 life. And then he activated the Breaking Scales to give it +1 power.
The worst part? I had no option to play around the on-board equipment thanks to what the last card in my hand was: a potion of strength [which has absolutely 0 defensive ability]. Why, Potion of Strength? Why? The simple answer was I didn’t draft well enough and overcompensated in packs 2 and 3 thinking I needed more red cards. Had I more leniency with my deck building I certainly wouldn't be playing a potion with no defense value. But I simply needed the resource points and didn’t have a choice and it came back to bite me.
Again, this isn’t to say Brendan’s victory wasn’t well-deserved: he played circles around me with the defense reaction and made it just as far as I did to that point, even with my insane sealed pool. But, thinking back on that game, I really think that having a better 3-pitch option that had a defense value would have changed the outcome of our game.
Thanks for reading my tournament report! My other tournament reports aren’t nearly this long. But like I said at the beginning I felt justified in going a little deeper, especially considering the freshness of the game. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes, as well as what I feel were some textbook cases of doing good work.
If you have any questions about Flesh and Blood, feel free to shoot me message just about anywhere, Facebook, Discord, or Twitter (@Churr0master). For now though, I have to prepare for constructed FAB and the World Championship!
This is a guest article, provided by Kyle Glass. Thank you for giving us permission to publish this article!
Guests are not affiliated with Legend Story Studios or Flesh and Blood.